Vintage Pulp Jul 2 2024
A LONG KISS GOODBYE
I see. So we'd be like good cop-bad cop, except one of us has sex with them and the other murders them. Can I be the good cop?


Charles Binger, whose work we don't see often enough, created this great cover for Richard Deming's 1960 novel Kiss and Kill. The book is about a couple of grifters who graduate from bunco scams to serial murders, first luring lonely women into marriage before offing them for their money. The two then skedaddle to other parts, rinse, and repeat. They never get too greedy in choosing their victims, as that would draw attention. They garner maybe $10,000 profit per murder. Actually, at one point they score $67,000, which would last normal people in 1960 half a lifetime, but they lose most of the money in Monte Carlo. Their fatal flaw—other than being murderers—is that they like to live high, so cash goes fast, which means they generally need to kill every three or four months. This goes on for five years, from Los Angeles to Miami Beach and points between, before complications arise. The main complication? Love. This is our second Deming, and our second success with him.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 27 2024
ONE MAN'S JOURNEY
Infancy, adulthood, and death in twenty-four years.


This issue of Man's Magazine hit newsstands this month in 1963 with Mel Crair cover art we suspect is cropped from a larger piece. In the past the magazine had featured paintings that occupied its entire front, but by this time it was experimenting with a tabloid look, giving more space to blocked text with sensational messaging, and reducing the dimensions of art acquired from Crair and others. More cover changes would come. From fully painted fronts, to the tabloid style you see here, it shifted to photo covers, which happened in 1969 and saw cheesecake and adventure imagery alternating, until the early ’70s when cheesecake took over and adventure was relegated entirely to the interior. Man's Magazine was by that point publishing nude and semi-nude women on all its covers. Other men's adventure magazines were doing the same.

This shift happened quickly, but had been in the wind for a long time. Private publications had crossed all red lines much earlier, though they hadn't been openly available. Producing and selling them was to risk prison. But it was understood that men wanted more eroticism, wanted it at high quality, and would buy it even if it wasn't behind the fig leaves of art and literature. However, art and literature were needed in above-ground publications because they helped avoid obscenity convictions. Otherwise, erotic content had no “redeeming qualities,” and legal troubles were guaranteed. Mainstream men's publications were largely articles, fiction, and cartoons for that reason—and to attract advertisers.

Man's Magazine had launched in 1952 and operated in reasonable health for at least fifteen years. But by the mid-1960s social repression and censorship were in retreat. Language was changing. Racier novels could be published without legal concerns, and more revealing cinematic content was possible. In the magazine realm, brands that foregrounded women's nudity more than previously were prospering. The erotic but coy Modern Man had launched in 1951. Playboy had arrived in 1954 and been willing to push the standards of what was possible. Penthouse arrived in the UK in 1965, in the U.S. in 1969, and began to show pubic hair. When Hustler arrived in 1974 the floodgates weren't just open, suddenly, but gaping.

Man's Magazine is a classic example of a publication that was swept away by all that change, but refused to go down without a fight. Its attempts to adapt failed and it folded in 1976. Interestingly, by the end, during the latter half of that year, it moved to personality covers. Cover stars included Richard M. Nixon, Muhammad Ali, and even Paul McCartney and Larry Csonka. We don't know what prompted that move—a final attempt to appear more highbrow, perhaps? We haven't bought any of those last gasp issues to seek clues, but nothing could help Man's Magazine retain market share in a landscape that featured publications with more nudity and gloss.

But it wasn't only explicitness and printing quality that pushed Man's Magazine and its ilk slowly off newsstands. With their tighter operating budgets when compared with Playboy and cohort, they generally had lower quality fiction, profiles, essays, and cartoons. By contrast Playboy would eventually interview some of the most important people in the world, and its fiction would feature the most acclaimed authors. Man's Magazine never had a prayer of keeping pace. But today's issue appeared before the decline. There's fiction from the well known Richard Deming, non-fiction by the respected Richard Hardwick, and many excellent illustrations. All of that and more are below.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 17 2024
A BIG ESQ.
Men's magazines come of age with Esquire.


Esquire isn't a pulp magazine, but it's a seminal U.S. publication that goes back to that era, debuting in 1933 and becoming incredibly popular within only a few issues. Today's from this month in 1945 was given to us by a friend. It was an unexpected and generous gift. It's also an unusual one. Dimensionally it's thirteen inches by ten, a size we've only seen a couple of times before. That meant scanning pages in halves and assembling them digitally, and because Esquire was perfect-bound, the scanning meant the destruction of the issue. Inside, there's fiction from Richard Gehman, James Stern, George Wiswell, Maurice Zolotow, and others, accompanied by nice story art. There are also some brilliant portraits of show business celebrities—including Virginia Mayo, Vera Zorina, Dorothy Hart, Ann Miller, Daun Kennedy, and ballerina Milada Mladova.

But it's the ads that catch the eye. Advertising is a trip back in time, a look at what culture considered important, which is why we have a vintage ad feature in our sidebar. Esquire is packed with ads, chiefly for booze, smokes, and suits. Lots of suits. To think that artists sat at easels in studios producing these illustrations is an amazing thought—and bittersweet, considering how little artistic talent goes into advertising today. We picture the cast of Mad Men refreshing their creative reservoirs with an occasional drink, or even better, Darrin Stevens from Bewitched, struggling over his art pad until Samantha gives him a witchy boost. The ads are mostly signed—by the likes of Frederic Fellander, Jay Hyde Barnum, Robert Goodman, and J.N.C. Fenton. Enjoy the scans. We killed the magazine but it was worth it, we think. And thanks to Alex for the donation.

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Vintage Pulp May 18 2024
A VERY PARTICULAR SET OF SKILLS
Wait, don't leave. I actually have a second talent, though I don't use it much. Let me just grab my banjo.


This cover for Josiah E. Greene's The Man with One Talent isn't anything special, but the title caught our eye because it's identical to that of an 1898 short story by Richard Harding Davis—who, speaking of talent, was an extraordinary war correspondent. The one talent referenced here by Greene is the capacity for violence, which the main character puts to use breaking up a union in a small New England town. This was originally published in hardback in 1951, with the Perma paperback coming the next year.

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Vintage Pulp May 13 2024
NAVEL MANEUVERS
Hey, take it easy! If you keep that up you'll turn my innie into an outie!


Above: another cover from artist Robert Bonfils, this time for Richard B. Long's 1970 piece of fluff Swapper Power, which is about a woman who starts sleeping around to help her husband in business. Wait—didn't we just read one like that? Of course we did—it's a well worn plotline, and that's why we didn't buy this particular iteration. Plus we have several sleaze novels stacked up waiting to be read. Richard B. Long is an obvious pseudonym, likely used by numerous authors, but we don't know which ones. And they probably don't want us to find out, so it's all good. 

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Vintage Pulp Apr 26 2024
LAY DETECTOR
Every top notch private investigator knows the best clues are found in bed.


We wanted to show you another poster painted by John Solie, who was responsible for numerous blaxploitation, sexploitation, and action promos, all executed at the extremely high level you see here with his one sheet for Stacey. His other notable efforts include those for The Arena, Star Crash, Hit Man, and Hollywood Boulevard. You can click his keywords at bottom to see everything we've shared from him.

Naturally we watched Stacey and it's a cheesy detective tale starring erstwhile Playboy centerfold Anne Randall, who plays a model-turned-private dick hired to investigate a rich woman's extended family before any of them are allowed to be included in her will. Randall arrives just in time for intrigue and murder. Private investigators need to possess a Class C license in order to legally take on clients. The C on Randall's license probably stands for “casual sex.”

Even so, there's not much here. The detective elements are uninspiring despite a noir style voiceover, and the sexual elements, even with Randall and co-star Anitra Ford in occasional undress, are not going to blow your skirt up. To put the overall nothingness of the movie in perspective, consider the fact that we couldn't find a copy with sharp enough resolution to make screenshots worthwhile, nor enough official production photos to make them worth sharing. That's how much of a historical afterthought it is.

In lieu of imagery you could use your imagination, but we recommend not bothering. Stacey resides at the low end of grindhouse cinema characterized by numerous bold and outrageous entries. In our opinion it's notable only for being the first exploitation effort by director Andy Sidaris, who would go on to helm boobalicious ’80s throwaways such as Malibu Express, Hard Ticket to Hawaii, and Savage Beach. Stacey premiered in the U.S. this month in 1973.

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Hollywoodland Mar 21 2024
ON BENDED KNEES
Strange ideas from the minds and lenses of mid-century promo photographers.
A while back we shared a promo photo of Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame from 1953's The Big Heat that was meant to imply oral sex (it absolutely was, and you can see for yourself here). We commented on its weirdness, and noted that an actress would probably not be asked or made to pose that way today. The shot got us thinking about whether there were other kneeling promo shots from the mid-century era, and above you see two others from The Big Heat.
 
Below we have more such shots, and while none are as jarring as that previous promo, they're all interesting. We assumed there would be few if any featuring kneeling males, but we found a couple. Even so, there are probably scores more kneeling actresses that we missed. While many of shots took the form they did to highlight the criminal/victim themes in their parent films, you still have to wonder what else—consciously or not—was in the various photograhers' minds. Anyway, just some food for thought this lovely Thursday. Ready, set discuss!
Rod Taylor and Luciana Pauluzzi swap subordinate positions for 1967's Chuka.

Edmund O'Brien goes for the time honored hair grab on Marla English for 1954's Shield for Murder.

Marilyn Monroe swoons as Richard Widmark snarls for Don't Bother To Knock, 1952.

Inger Stevens and Terry Ann Ross for Cry Terror, an adaptation of a novel we talked about a few years ago.

Kim Hunter soothes an overheated Marlon Brando in a promo for 1951's A Streetcar Named Desire.

George Raft menaces Marlene Dietrich in the 1941 comedy Manpower.

As promos go, these actually make sense. They show three unidentified models mesmerized by vampire Christopher Lee for 1970's Taste the Blood of Dracula.

Glenn Ford is at it again, this time looming over Rita Hayworth for the 1946 classic Gilda.
 
Aldo Ray and Barbara Nichols for 1958's The Naked and the Dead.

This one shows less domination and more protectiveness, as Humphrey Bogart prepares to defend Ida Lupino for High Sierra, 1941.

Humphrey once more. Here he's with Lizabeth Scott for Dead Reckoning, 1947.

This shot shows Brazilian actress Fiorella Mari with an actor we can't identify in a movie we also can't identify.

Shelly Winters and Jack Palance climb the highest mountain together for I Died a Thousand Times, 1955.

As we said, we didn't find as many examples of kneeling men, but we found this gem—Cappucine makes a seat of director Blake Edwards on the set of The Pink Panther in 1963. Does this count, though? While Edwards is subordinate, he isn't kneeling and it really isn’t a legit promo.

And lastly, in a curious example, Hugo Haas seems to tell Cleo Moore to stay in a shot made for 1953's One Girl's Confession

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Vintage Pulp Jan 28 2024
ABDUCTOR STRAIN
Liking this film will demand very hard work.


We're back to Cheri Caffaro quicker than you thought, finally taking a look at The Abductors, part of a trilogy of films, along with Ginger and Girls Are for Loving, in which she plays government agent Ginger McAllister. The character, who is no James Bond or Emma Peel (budget alone prevents that), usually lounges around sun-drenched climes, but occasionally is called in by her handler to deal with tough cases. This time she's needed to take down a sex trafficking ring. She recruits her pal Laurie Rose as bait, has her swallow a tracking chip, allows her to be kidnapped, and intends to follow her to the heart of the operation. But the plan doesn't quite work out—cut to Caffaro and Rose bound, gagged, and at the mercy of bad men.

Things look dire at that point. There's not much upside in being tied up in a basement in nothing but your panties. However Caffaro and Rose have two advantages. First, they both know karate or something. And second, they both love sex. They don't even have to fake it. These two can get off even with the flabbiest villains. And if their martial arts and sexual prowess don't bring down the crooks, they have outside help from an entire government funded crimefighting organization. In short—they'll be just fine. The movie is less so. In the end you can say about it exactly what you can say about the other two entries in the Ginger McAllister series: it's bad but interesting; it's surprisingly equal opportunity with its nudity; and it showcases a uniquely brave actress in Caffaro. The Abductors premiered today in 1972.
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Vintage Pulp Jan 13 2024
OVER THE TOP
Powell shoots for a comedic mystery but doesn't have Hammett's perfect aim.

What is a "hilarious all-action thriller" like? That's the question that went through our minds when we impulsively ordered Richard Powell's 1946 novel All Over but the Shooting, though we were also drawn by the cover. The book was originally published by Popular Library, but the striking version you see above with art that's unfortunately uncredited came from the British imprint Hodder & Stoughton in 1952.

Powell weaves a tale set in 1942 about Richard Blake and his danger-magnet wife Arabella—Arab for short—who believes she's stumbled across a spy plot centered around a Washington, D.C. women's boarding house. Determined to delve for answers—and to her husband's chagrin—she pretends to be a single woman, takes a room, and starts poking around. Her suspicions are of course correct. The place is a den of Nazis.

Powell thinks outside the box about every aspect of his story: how the conspiracy is uncovered, how the investigation proceeds, what clues are found, and what leaps of intuition keep the intrepid Arabella moving toward a solution. But the entire story is preposterous. Example: when Arab seems likely to be connected to a raincoat she lost while fleeing for her life, her hubby manages to sneak into the room where it's being kept—while its occupant is just upstairs—and have it altered in five minutes by a conveniently situated maid. That way the coat won't fit Arab when the villain tries to say it's hers.

That and about two dozen other moments are silly. Powell achieved, we think, exactly what he set out to do as an author, but we didn't find the book to be exactly scintillating. It was no Thin Man, for example, Dashiell Hammett's smashingly successful amalgam of humor and danger. But in the same way Arab erodes her husband's disbelief and finally gets him to buy into her wacky ideas, she wore us down too. She's a fun character, and makes the book worth a read. We won't seek out Powell again, but one spin around wartime D.C.? Sure, okay.
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Vintage Pulp Nov 19 2023
TO HAVE AND TO HOLD
Possession is nine-tenths of breaking the law.


We're back to Richard Himmel today and his franchise character, Chicago tough guy lawyer Johnny Maguire. I Have Gloria Kirby came third in the Maguire series, first appearing as this Gold Medal original edition with uncredited cover art in 1951. As we mentioned before, Maguire is a lawyer, but Himmel basically treats him as a detective, and his narrative follows all the expected forms of private dick novels.

As with the earlier books, there are some good moments here. There's an excellent scene that comes after Maguire and his occasional love Tina, who works in a stenographer's office in Maguire's building, have just narrowly escaped a brutal maiming. Maguire has finished explaining to the confused and terrified Tina why everything has been happening, including why he made her burn a mink coat in the building incinerator a couple of days earlier. It's all about seventy thousand missing dollars:

Do you know where it is, Johnny?”

Sure. Sure, I know where it is.”

Where?”

I dropped my gun on the desk. “You've got it.”

What did you say?”

I said you've got it. It's in your office. I put it there myself.”

Tina passed out. She went limp and collapsed to the floor. I let her lie there. She needed the rest. I went into my bottom drawer for the bottle. That bottle had been getting a hell of a workout. Out in the hall I rang for the elevator.

[snip]

When I went back in my office, Tina was sitting up on the floor drinking out of the bottle. “For people that burn mink coats and have seventy thousand dollars lying around, we sure drink cheap liquor,” she said.

That's pretty good. The book isn't at that level all the way through, but it's well written and keeps the tension cranked to high. The final showdown between Maguire and his organized crime nemesis is highly unlikely, but not to the extent that it ruins the tale. As mid-century detective—er, lawyer—novels go, we think I have Gloria Kirby is in the upper half of the distribution. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 19
1966—Sinatra Marries Farrow
Superstar singer and actor Frank Sinatra marries 21-year-old actress Mia Farrow, who is 30 years younger than him. The marriage lasts two years.
July 18
1925—Mein Kampf Published
While serving time in prison for his role in a failed coup, Adolf Hitler dictaes and publishes volume 1 of his manifesto Mein Kampf (in English My Struggle or My Battle), the book that outlines his theories of racial purity, his belief in a Jewish conspiracy to control the world, and his plans to lead Germany to militarily acquire more land at the expense of Russia via eastward expansion.
July 17
1955—Disneyland Begins Operations
The amusement park Disneyland opens in Orange County, California for 6,000 invitation-only guests, before opening to the general public the following day.
1959—Holiday Dies Broke
Legendary singer Billie Holiday, who possessed one of the most unique voices in the history of jazz, dies in the hospital of cirrhosis of the liver. She had lost her earnings to swindlers over the years, and upon her death her bank account contains seventy cents.
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